Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography Page: 21
This book is part of the collection entitled: Rescuing Texas History, 2010 and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries .
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Outside, Mr. Aiken directed me to the company bunkhouse
hard by the great tipple, towering gaunt and bare. I was to meet
him early the next morning. "Mind you, now," he said to me,
"it's at six that I'll be looking for you and not a minute later.
I'll see you get a lamp." And six it was. Indeed, it could not
have been later, with the men all about us rising for breakfast
at the cookshack and the day's long toil.
Thus began my work in the mines, at the age of twelve. Soon
Mr. Aiken, a religious man as the Welsh are apt to be, took me
to live with him. Each morning, six days a week, Mrs. Aiken
put up my lunch, which consisted of a can of cold tea, cheese,
A "bottomer" worked at the bottom of an incline. The seams
of bituminous coal ran at an angle of forty-five degrees, and
were reached by a great shaft with a cage elevator running
vertically down into the earth. From the shaft, tunnels ran off
at various levels. My level was almost two thousand feet down.
To this day I remember my first terrifying descent, down and
ever down, into the dark and silent bowels of the earth, far below
From the branching levels ran inclines, following the sloping
seams of coal. From these inclines the miners picked the coal
free, loaded it a ton at a time in cars, and allowed the load, a
car at a time, to roll down tracks to me waiting at the bottom.
My task was to attach an empty car to the cable each time a
full one descended, to be hauled aloft. I then maneuvered the
full car to a siding, where it remained until a maximum of fifteen
had collected. This train was then hauled by a driver and a mule
to the hoistway which took it to the tipple and the surface.
The bottom where I worked was in a tunnel, or level, far
from the hoist and oppressively dark. No electric light dispelled
the Stygian gloom. Beneath my feet and all around the shale
shone dully, the heavy clay overhead oozed seepage, the air
was preternaturally still and laden with the primordial smell
Here’s what’s next.
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Atkinson, Donald Taylor. Texas Surgeon: an Autobiography, book, 1958; New York. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143566/m1/33/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.